From January 1, 2018, the Environmental Protection Tax Law of the People's Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as the "Environmental Protection Tax Law") will be implemented. This means that in two months, the sewage fee system that has been in operation for 38 years will become history.
What changed from "fees" to "taxes" in nature? Can the collection of environmental protection tax become a "strong medicine" for enterprises to reduce emissions?
What is the difference between "fees" and "taxes"?
In 1979, China promulgated the "Environmental Protection Law (Trial)" and established a sewage charge system. According to regulations, those who discharge pollutants to the environment that exceed national or local standards need to pay certain costs for pollution control or restoration of environmental damage.
According to statistics, from 2003 to 2015, China has levied a total of 211.599 billion yuan in sewage charges, and more than 5 million households have paid sewage charges.
Photo by Tongjiang
Professor Wen Zongguo, a professor at the School of Environmental Studies at Tsinghua University, said in an interview with a reporter from China News Agency that the sewage charge collection is not standardized and compulsory.
In fact, this reflects the irrationality of the sewage charge system. As long as the polluters do not exceed the pollutant discharge standards, they can use the environmental self-purification capacity resources free of charge, objectively causing a situation in which the total amount of pollutants discharged by enterprises is beyond control.
On December 25, 2016, the Twenty-Fifth Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress passed the "Environmental Protection Tax Law of the People's Republic of China".
According to the "Environmental Protection Tax Law", enterprises and institutions and other manufacturers and operators that directly discharge taxable pollutants to the environment are taxpayers of environmental protection tax. Taxable pollutants are divided into four categories, namely air pollutants, water pollutants, solid waste and noise. The tax calculation basis is determined based on the number of pollution equivalents, emissions, and decibels.
Wen Zongguo pointed out that compared to sewage charges, the environmental tax collection standards have changed greatly. Although taxable pollutants are still the four categories of air, water, solid waste and noise, the amount of tax collected is directly related to the amount of pollutants discharged by enterprises. The most important thing is, "Sewage charges are more an administrative means, and environmental taxes are a means of regulation based on market mechanisms to change the environmental protection behavior of enterprises."
In the view of Li Zuojun, deputy director of the Institute of Resources and Environmental Policy of the Development Research Center of the State Council, environmental protection tax is a more standardized, stable, and compulsory measure, sending a clearer signal to enterprises.
What are the challenges of collection?
After the "Environmental Protection Tax Law" is implemented, the collection right will be formally transferred from the environmental protection department to the tax authority, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection will be responsible for the management of pollutant monitoring.
Photo by Xu Congjun
Wen Zongguo believes that the measurement of environmental protection taxes requires certain technical means, because environmental protection taxes need to be evaluated and measured according to the amount of pollutant emissions. In this regard, cooperation between departments is a challenge.
He further pointed out that "environmental taxes involve how to monitor and measure, and the amount of pollutants discharged by enterprises changes in real time. Without a good information sharing system, it will be a great challenge for the tax department."
Wu Huyun, the general manager of Zhejiang Shuangyu Industrial Co., Ltd., who has been engaged in the design, production and installation of environmental protection equipment for many years, told Guoguo as a train reporter. "In the past, tenders were always won at low prices. Monitoring needs to consider the sensitivity of the measuring instrument, otherwise it will fail over a period of time, and some even adjust the instrument by themselves. "
In other words, if the collection of environmental taxes is not fair, the effect will be greatly reduced.
Looking at the tax collected, according to the "Environmental Protection Tax Law", the tax for air pollutants is 1.2-12 yuan per pollution equivalent, the tax for water pollutants is 1.4-14 yuan per pollution equivalent, and solid waste is 5-1000 yuan per ton according to different types. The noise is 350-11200 yuan per month in excess of the decibels. The people's governments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government may flexibly adjust within the tax range.
Li Zuojun believes that the levy of environmental protection tax is a re-segmentation of corporate interests and increases its costs, so companies will feel uncomfortable. "In addition, some enterprises in the real economy industry, especially those with high emissions and high pollution, are more difficult to operate. Levying environmental taxes will put them under double pressure."
However, Wen Zongguo also pointed out that "companies that do well in environmental protection may survive better, and the rise in tax costs will be relatively small, which is a more positive impact for them."
How to reduce emissions and reduce burdens?
Among many taxpayers, 14 heavily polluting industries such as thermal power, coal, mining, chemical industry, and petrochemical are listed as key monitoring (sewage) targets. After the implementation of environmental tax, its tax expenditure may increase significantly.
Photo by Mondron
Li Zuojun said that tax will undoubtedly increase the cost of enterprises, and will motivate enterprises to reduce the production of high-emission and high-polluting products, which will achieve the effect of reducing emissions.
However, for enterprises that valued environmental protection early and carried out the upgrading and upgrading of pollution control processes earlier, the environmental protection tax did not affect them too much. Wen Zongguo pointed out that enterprises should make strategic and management deployments in advance. "The only way out is to focus on technological innovation and technological transformation. Although there will be continuous investment, in the long-term cost-effectiveness, the reduction of environmental protection tax payments and Increasing revenue may even out this burden. "
It is understood that the current technology for pollutant emission reduction is very mature, but the cost is different. Wen Zongguo believes that enterprises can choose technologies that are economically feasible and suitable for the characteristics of the company's processes and the difficulty of governance, which is not the current major bottleneck.
In addition to monitoring pollutants, Wu Huyun believes that the material of environmental protection equipment should also be required in the future. He gave an example: "Glass fiber reinforced plastic is non-degradable for 100 years. How to deal with it after it is discarded is a problem, but this equipment material is still in use, and materials that can be reused should be promoted."
In addition, Wu Huyun pointed out that after the implementation of the environmental protection tax, enterprises should be strictly monitored, otherwise "the secret discharge in the middle of the night" will still exist.
At the same time, in order to better encourage companies to reduce emissions, Wen Zongguo believes that environmental taxes should have a more flexible regulatory role. For example, taxes vary depending on how well a company does environmental protection.
Regardless of whether the enterprise is ready or not, environmental taxes will be levied soon. In Li Zuojun's view, the Chinese economy has shifted from a high-speed development stage to a high-quality development stage, and the levy of environmental protection taxes will help achieve this transition.
"For companies, only by developing low-pollution, low-emission industries and products will they reduce tax costs. This will promote enterprises to promote product transformation and upgrading, and focus on developing higher value-added, green and low-carbon products to form New competitiveness. "Li Zuojun said.